As a child, Richard Hardy often would read his father’s science fiction magazines, dreaming one day he would design rockets to fly to the moon. “What I loved about science fiction was that it was all about the art of what is possible,” he says.

Little did Hardy know at the time that one day his dream would become a reality. Eventually, he worked at Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, where he helped design the booster rocket that launched Neil Armstrong’s spaceship to the moon.

Recently, Hardy and his wife, Linda, gave MIT $800,000 to establish a fund to support a graduate fellowship in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“We have great confidence in MIT,” he says. “It is focused on things useful for civilization — curing cancer, solving the energy problem, improving transportation, and discovering better materials to build homes. We wanted to make this gift because people at MIT are always coming up with new products and new technologies that allow people to live better.”

Hardy graduated from MIT in 1958 with a bachelor’s in aeronautics and astronautics and also a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. In 1959, he earned a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics. Later that year, he was hired at Boeing, where he worked for the next 37 years — first on the technical staff designing booster rockets, then supervising a crew to work on flight mechanics and guidance, later conducting research on fighters and unmanned vehicles, then becoming vice president and general manager of military airplanes. After two years in retirement, when he wrote three books — two nonfiction and a historical novel — he launched his own company, Hardy Engineering and Manufacturing Company, an aerospace firm in Auburn, Washington.

Linda, his wife of 47 years, is a graduate of Skidmore College, with a master’s in early childhood education from the University of Washington and a certificate from the Saint Nicholas Training Center for the Montessori Method of London. She has run a Montessori School for 34 years. Hardy says his wife wanted to dedicate her career to the education of future generations. The couple’s granddaughter, Gina Fridley, is now an MIT freshman.

“MIT’s aeronautics and astronautics department competes for the best minds in the world,” he says. “We’re hoping that this gift will bring great people into the program, educate them, and have them do marvelous things.”